Health concerns of men are often overlooked for a number of reasons. Men are statistically less likely to seek medical advice when compared to women. The “wait until it’s broken to fix it” mentality leads to all too many preventable diseases and deaths. The following are things to add to your health checklist to discuss with your doctor.
Questions to Ask Yourself
How dense or sticky are your LDL (low density lipoproteins) cholesterol?
What is the quantity and quality of your HDL (high density lipoproteins) cholesterol?
What is your insulin level and are you showing signs of insulin resistance?
Are your inflammatory markers elevated?
Do you sleep at least 7 hours per night?
How do you manage stress?
Would you consider your life joyful?
If you cannot answer these questions, your heart may not be as protected as you think.
Advanced Cholesterol Screening
Times are changing when it comes to cardiovascular health screening. Routine cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure screenings are not the only way to monitor an individuals cardiovascular health status, and increasingly stroke and heart attacks still occur when these routine screenings prove normal.
Cholesterol is typically delineated into total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL the quote “bad” cholesterol and HDL the quote “good” cholesterol. You want to keep total cholesterol down while maintaining a healthy balance between the good and back cholesterol LDL and HDL.
LDL cholesterol comes in several forms; some forms are heavy, dense and sticky making them more likely to plaque arteries. Quantity and quality count when it comes to HDL cholesterol. You want a high number of HDL’s to patrol the cardiovascular system acting like garbage trucks, removing the trash the LDL can leave behind. In addition, quality counts when it comes to HDL cholesterol; the larger the garbage truck the more efficient it can be.
Triglycerides are very linked to blood sugar, in the sense that if you do not eat enough healthy fiber and protein in the day to maintain a level blood sugar, typically there is an increase in triglycerides.
Insulin is a hormone that keeps blood sugar levels balanced in the body and assists in supplying energy to vital organs including the heart, brain and kidneys. Checking fasting insulin levels in addition to fasting blood sugar is important, as elevated insulin levels can be a sing of insulin resistance- a condition where the blood sugar no longer responds to insulin’s signal. This can be a sign of a pre-diabetic situation, which can be reversed through lifestyle.
Inflammation is not specific to any one part of the body. It is non-discriminatory and can affect a multitude of organ systems. Specifically when it comes to heart health, your CRP level, or C-reactive protein, is a test that can be run to quantify inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
Elevated levels of CRP carry a much higher risk of a cardiovascular event. Increasing heart healthy anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish and nuts, adequate hydration and reducing stress can all help to keep CRP levels down. Consider having your CRP level checked.
The importance of quality sleep cannot be over stated. Especially when it comes to cardiovascular and mental health. The body needs down time to rejuvenate and restore, without this time to do so, the body begins to release alarm hormones including cortisol. This makes the body feel as if there is not time to relax, always in a fight or flight state. Continuous elevations of cortisol though the day can increase anxiety, create fluctuations on blood sugar and contribute to changeable bowel habits.
Making time for sleep is first priority. Secondly, if you find falling or staying asleep to be an issue, there are several natural remedies that can be utilized to help get your body back in a normal sleep rhythm. In addition, a sleep study may be helpful in determining if restlessness at night is due to a condition called sleep apnea, a condition in which regular breathing is interrupted during the night, starving the brain of oxygen, signaling the body to wake up. Sleep apnea is very serious and needs to be remedied immediately if suspected.
Stress Management and Joy
Too often we become bogged down in the day-to-day stressors of life. Due to societal norms, men are stereotypically not valued unless they keep work hours long, sleep hours short and rest and relaxation time to an absolute minimum. Work responsibilities, commitments, family obligations and the like can all become overwhelming and draining. Centering your life around joy instead of chaos can in turn the chaos into enjoyment in life. We all have down days, but when the mental drain of life becomes too much to handle we not only begin to tear down mentally but also physically.
Research shows that a negative mindset leads to increases insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety and depression and increases in inflammation leading to increased pain making finding your joy and keeping a balance in life is vitally important. There are a vast amount of resources available to help you manage life stressors including periodic counseling sessions, spiritual guidance via whatever avenue you may subscribe, practicing medication or prayer and journaling. As little as 10 minutes of positive thought can set the tone for a healthful day mentally and physically.
In summary, it is important to know your heart.; both literally and figuratively. Speak with your physician about your health risks and devise a health plan to ensure you are doing all that you can to maintain your health. De-stress your life, sleep well and exercise. Your body will thank you.